Sunday, April 1, 2012

ACK! Whump. And chak chak chak...

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm turning in my manuscript TODAY and the poor spellchecker is choking on some of my words:

1. whap-whap-whap
2. Pfff
3. kaching
4. boop-beep-boop
5. chak chak chak
6. tink
7. Wha-wha-wha
8. whump

So I'm wondering if my nonsense words really do seem like the sounds that I am attempting to reproduce. So, help me out here. Match those sounds (1-8) to these things that make them (a-h).

a. Bone china
b. Cash register
c. Super Mario Brothers coins
d. Angry squirrel
e. A car engine trying (unsuccessfully) to turn over
f. A garage door coming down and closing
g. An emergency vehicle siren
h. Someone expressing disbelieef

(Answers later today in comments. Giving away a copy of the new paperback of COME AND FIND ME to the commenter who guesses closest. )

Conspicuously absent is ACK! -- my favorite expression of surprise. I just couldn't find a place for it in the book. Lucy Burdette, knowing it's my favorite word, gave it to me once as a present (picture).

What nonsense words for sounds do you use in your writing? Wondering, are British and other era's nonsense words different from American?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: PPfff. I'm expressing disbelief that your spellchecker is so--provincial. (Parochial? I always get those mixed up.) Nonsense words. In my book. Um. Er. Eeesh. Yikes. I think--I don't. (Chak chak chak--I'm angry about it now!) I do have a scene where the cat "merped." I say whuffled. And whiffled, now I think of it. One of 'em has to go, I suppose...

HALLIE: Oh, I had a cat that used to merp all the time. All over the bed.

JAN BROGAN: I'm not sure I can contribute much to this already comprehensive list. But I have a question, was it Lucy or Sally from Peanuts who used to say ACK all the time?

HALLIE: Bill the Cat in Bloom County used to say "ACK!" and "Thbbft!" Charlie Brown used to say "Sigh."

I remember "Thbbft!" Which, I think, conveys the sound of someone blowing a raspberry perfectly. These aren't really nonsense words, though, are they? They're kind of like onomatopoeias (onomatopoeiae?) except the sound-descriptive words aren't also used as verbs. We say "The cat meowed," but we don't say "The cat thbbfted." Though perhaps we could get some sort of linguistic groundswell going...

HALLIE: "How right you are," she ACKed...

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My favorite by far is "ARRGGHH." One can add as many consonants as needed, and it expresses all degrees of frustration. It also makes you feel like a pirate:-)

JULIA: No, no--ARRRrrrrr is piratical. Thinking about this, I realize I use a lot more of these locutions in life than I do in my books. Like "skritches" for the dog and "rubbly-rubbly-rubbly" which is the sound of rubbing the cat's belly. Or "hengulla-hengulla-hengulla," which as I'm sure you all know, refers to quality time spent with your spouse or partner. (My college-aged daughter reads this blog. Sorry, sweetie.)

HALLIE: Please, share your favorite nonsense words and answer the quiz and enter the drawing for a book.


Karen in Ohio said...

1. E
2. H
3. B
4. C
5. D
6. A
7. G
8. F

Well, Julia, I didn't know before, but now I do. Will incorporate "hengulla-hengulla-hengulla" into my personal lexicon, tout suite. I'm sure my husband will thank you, profusely. :-)

Kathy Lynn Emerson said...

I think it was Charlie Brown who also said "bleagh!" I remember this because when I was in college a friend was reading the comics aloud and pronounced it blee-agg. For the next four years, "oh, blee-agg!" was a favorite expletive in the dorm.

Sandi said...

1. c
2. h
3. b
4. g
5. d
6. a
7. e
8. f

There's a restaurant here you'd like, Deborah. It's called HHFFRRRGGH (pronounced HuffARG). I'm also a big fan of ACK! (it always has an exclamation point). My cat hurks - actually, poor Ru is more like "hurk hurk hurk hurk HACK!

Hallie Ephron said...

Oh, I know that hurk hurk hurk HACK routine. Hairball on the carpet.

Yes, I loved bleagh!

In college we used to say, when something wasn't all that funny, "Yucca, yucca, the laugh of the desert plant." No idea where that comes from (we were in NYC).

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OH, yea, bleah. I always say that!

Is hengulla-hengulla like yadda-yadda?

Michele said...


Silver James said...

1. - e
2. - h
3. - c
4. - b
5. - d
6. - a
7. - g
8. - f

Erf. I erf a lot. It conveys so many things. And eep. There is much eeping at my house upon occasion. I won't talk about the fricking and the fracking that also goes on. *looks shifty-eyed*

Happy April Fool's Day, everyone!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Momentarily while out of town at a literary festival brunch. Love this post.

But most of all, Julia, I love your "hengulla-hengulla-hengulla"! Ben and I will adopt that right away.

Hallie Ephron said...

ACK! Can't believe how many different guesses there are to the quiz. And those sounds seem SO obvious to me.

Hengulla-hengulla-hengulla. I hear bedsprings.

Paula Matter said...

I like 'whoosh.' Okay, here goes...

1. g
2. h
3. b
4. c
5. d
6. a
7. e
8. f

Phew! Glad that's over.

Lisa Alber said...

Huh? The sound of befuddlement. :-)

I seem to recall I used a whap-whapping sound once in a scene.

Here's my attempt:

1. e
2. h
3. b
4. c
5. d
6. a
7. g
8. f

The hardest one for me was the ambulance siren--could be 7 too...

danielle-momo said...


Well, having no Mario B., no garage door and bone china, I'm really not sure of those answers.
But it is a fun post for April's fool.

College Age Daughter said...

I do read this blog and I'm glad to learn something new every day. So happy to know that.

Hallie Ephron said...

Rolling on the floor, here!

Hallie Ephron said...

And the winner is: PAULA MATTER!

1. whap-whap-whap (emergency vehicle siren)
2. Pfff (expression of disbelief)
3. kaching (cash register)
4. boop-beep-boop (Super Mario Brothers coins)
5. chak chak chak (angry squirrel)
6. tink (bone china)
7. Wha-wha-wha (car engine trying to turn over)
8. whump (garage door coming down)

Paula Matter said...

Yipeeeeee! I am absolutely thrilled!

Thanks so much, Hallie.

Terry Ambrose said...

Jeez, I hate tests. So why am I doing this???? Okay, enough carping.
1. D
2. H
3. B
4. G
5. C
6. A
7. E
8. F

In reality I think anyone will accept your interpretation as long as you make it clear what you want that sound to be.

Deb Romano said...

Was too exhausted today to make even the slightest attempt to enter this contest. It sure was a fun post to read, though and I learned a LOT about some of you...Julia...


I use Aarrgghh a lot when writing to friends and relatives to describe complete and utter exasperation about situations over which I have no control. It seems to me that Aarrgghh has become a regular visitor to my correspondence now that I think of it. It especially describes how I feel about being blackballed by Team Captcha. Again.

Kerflooie/kerflewie describes the movement of the butterflies in my stomach when I am anxious or sick or exhausted. As a matter of fact,my stomach is all kerflewie right this minute because I did not get enough sleep last night. I cannot exclaim "Aarrgghh", however, because the situation was totally mine to control; well, sort of: I was reading a mystery and kept telling myself "one more chapter,and then go to bed". After a couple of hours of that, I moved into the bedroom and told myself -repeatedly -"oh,okay;one more chapter and then shut the light". Then I could not sleep because I kept thinking about the book. (I don't suppose there's any way I can blame an author whenever this happens? It would certainly justify the Kerflooie.)

Oh,Aarrgghh!!!!! My stomach is all kerflewie! I'd better get to bed early tonight.

Good night!

Captcha attempt Number Three

Reine said...

Here goes-- if I'm not too late. This was fun! Best on the deadline thing. Ooooooh... hate those, but would never get anything done without them!

1. E
2. H
3. B
4. C
5. D
6. A
7. G
8. F

Reine said...

See... I was too late! I needed a deadline, Hallie!